Format: Wii U eShop
Developer: Francisco Téllez de Meneses
The Wii U eShop is about to go ballistic in 2014, there are over 100 indies coming out, the virtual console will expand with GBA and DS (and hopefully N64 and Gamecube!), but currently the Wii U is spluttering out the occasional release; but that’s not to say it’s not a great service, there are some excellent titles already, and I’d always prefer a smaller batch of quality games than a mobile store styled explosion. The latest release is UnEpic, a port of the steam action RPG, though it’s much more Metroid than Final Fantasy.
RPG’s though sit at the heart of this game, not the traditional videogame RPG, but the table top variety. The game starts in the present day and group of guys are playing Dungeons and Dragons, a trip to the toilet sees our hero, Daniel wake up in the dungeon (Harnakan) of the game they were playing; he presumes it’s some sort of dream/fantasy and goes along with it, referencing the real world RPG (and videogames in general) and pretty much every sci-fi film you can imagine. The presentation is quite nice, it’s impressively fully-voiced with strong performances; the script is pretty weak, but it get’s away with it in the main by the meta nature of the story; it looks and sounds very functional after that with hit and miss character designs and generally poor animation; but it’s made by one guy, it’s easy to forgive.
The game takes place in a dungeon filled with 200 rooms, that are littered with a variety of the monsters you expect and basic puzzles to solve; it has an open world feel in that you can explore it at your will, only hindered by locked doors to further areas, the open world side quests also play a part, from killing evil dogs, to rescuing dolls for little goblin girls, they’re a nice diversion and always offer useful rewards, or new items and weapons. It’s these that offer the most interesting aspect to the game, there is a huge amount of weapons, from daggers to axes to spears, and it isn’t long before you can cast spells, again, a huge amount; with items such as useful “pets” who can help you attack; it throws new things at you at quite a pace, and throughout the whole of the 15 hour adventure, which is impressive, and with the stat building of many aspects of you character (energy, magic, armour etc) as well as the weapons themselves, the game never just floats along, always progressing.
It’s a shame then, that the gameplay doesn’t quite to live up this, it’s fun enough bombing around the world, getting just a tad OCD about lighting up every torch and battling the bosses; but the gameplay doesn’t change, it’s the same at the beginning as it as at the end. The weapons just develop with the games difficulty so you don’t really notice the impact, and the game just get’s a little repetitive. I craved for different weapons and new spells to affect the gameplay more than they did, it’s essentially offers no new hook, or mechanic; its enemies, exploration, stat building, combat; everything has been seen before, it having a post-modern take on it doesn’t all of a sudden make all that more original, it just means you get lot’s of cultural references and slightly mad and random cameos from Zoidberg (Futurama) and Metal gear Solid, which certainly give it a certain energy, but don’t make the game better.
UnEpic is frustratingly close to being great; the post-modern framing is nice, but the script ultimately too weak; the stat building and sheer variety of weaponry and items is surprisingly vast, but affect the gameplay too little; the retro style is probably closer to creaky than cool and the game design is absolutely fine, but we’ve seen and played it all before. This sounds negative, I really enjoyed the game and it fulfils is lofty ambition, it’s just that it’s a game that is the some of its parts - good but not great. But the fact it was so close to great makes it harder to take.